The slow, hot days of summer direct my thoughts to memories of past escapades. Those cherished moments of discovery and awe. If there is something I recommend when traveling is to hold no expectations, for itineraries and plans will be altered ruining romantic and expectant travelers’ dreams. Just let it be.
Back in April of this Chinese year of the Dog, my husband and I visited Beaumont, Texas for some serious birding. During Spring migration birds stop along the coastal marshes of Texas for a respite between their long journey north. But before preparing for our early morning birding adventure, we followed the visitors’ map and drove around Beaumont’s downtown without a clue on what to expect and that is always a good thing.
Traffic was light making our drive quite enjoyable. Soon enough, on the corner of Jefferson and Wall Street, we spotted the Colonnade of Christ the Redeemer. Where have we seen this before? we said. In St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome! I did not remember this, my memory is not that good, but read it on the Basilica’s Pilgrims’ Path brochure. The bell towers adjacent to a Garden Shrine of St. Anthony feeding the poor, and the wooded property are a welcoming and beautiful site, but nothing prepared us to what is housed inside. It was one of those moments in my travels where my breath stops briefly and my heart pounds with the excitement of an adventurer discovering new lands.
The Pilgrims’ Path lists 27 important religious, art and architecture features of the place. Too many to list on this post, besides I sincerely hope readers have a chance to visit someday and those who have visited feel compelled to comment on this post.
We entered the Cathedral Basilica from the Northwest Transept that houses St. Paul’s Munich stained glass window, the French stained glass windows of St. Anthony of Padua’s life, and the three gilded pilgrim shells representing St. James of Compostela, patron of Spain, the country of origin of the first missionaries to Southeast Texas. That was just the appetizer dear readers. The magnificent rest hits you like lightning; a quiet, and spiritual lightning. The type that rattles souls, not camera lenses.
I will mention the impressive Carrara Marble Sacrificial Altar trimmed in dark Carpathian walnut situated beneath a great canopy right in the center of the Basilica. In the altar’s lower “confessio” are relics and images of Sts. Anthony, patron of the Diocese, and Katharine Drexel, who ministered in Southeast Texas. Above the altar and canopy is the alabaster Dome with gilded Holy Spirit. The Dome’s Latin and Greek text proclaims: “Glory to the preaching flame and four charity wheat sheaves”.
The place was empty and we are grateful the staff unlocked the door just for us. How special it was to have the place all to ourselves, just like having our own place in heaven even if for a brief moment. My camera could not capture what I was feeling. I tried. This holy place is impeccable and serene. An unforgettable spiritual pause in the Southeast Gulf Coast of Texas.